Mexico will face the United States in their 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifying final round opener at Columbus, Ohio, on 11 February, the US Soccer Federation announced on Tuesday.

Cold weather can be expected for the matchup, the third time in as many final-round qualifying tournaments that the Americans have faced Mexico at the home of the 2008 Major League Soccer champion Columbus Crew.

"We are very excited about returning to Columbus," US coach Bob Bradley said. "We are looking forward to an incredible atmosphere as we continue the difficult task of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa."

The Mexicans and Americans are expected to be the favorites in the 2009 six-nation round-robin fight for three berths in South Africa, with Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador and Trinidad and Tobago also in the hunt.

The Americans have an excellent record against Mexico in Columbus, having beaten El Tri 2-0 there in frigid conditions in 2001 and again by the same score in 2005. US officials avoided sending the Mexicans to a warm-weather site or one where they might be expected to have a huge local following, such as Los Angeles or Houston, in hopes of a tactical advantage in cold and maybe snow.

"Our first priority is to give our team the best chance to be successful and achieve the goal of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup," US Soccer president Sunil Gulati said. "We carefully considered our options and ultimately we felt that playing in Columbus is the right fit for this match."